Homesteading, backyard farming, grow your own food, it all seems to be the cool thing to do these days. And a noble pursuit! I don’t want to discourage anyone from their dream or from being more self-reliant and bettering the planet. But I do want to paint a picture of reality, or at least my reality, as a family who is living it. I read so many beautiful blogs and books and see so many picturesque settings online of these perfect farming families. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure some of these do exist, but for those of you, on the fence, check out these 10 ways to tell if it is really for you! In general, I advise, start small and be realistic!
- Do you like poop? No, that is not a joke question, completely serious! The truth is, if you have animals, lots of animals, in your backyard, there is going to be a plethora of poop! And I don’t mean the normal dog poop pile here and there. And all poop is different. We have two cows, quite a few pigs, chickens and ducks and two dogs and cats. It seemed like a lovely idea to let the birds free roam. It was a lovely idea until our porch and walkways were covered in poop…. and the chairs, bar-b-q, kid’s pool, you name it! Cow poop is like walking through a mine field. At least pigs choose one space to consolidate their poop, mostly, but the smell can be horrid. When the wind blows a certain direction, better get that gas mask. If you are like my husband, poop excites you and you study it and even take pictures of it….
- Do you like your home and living area clean? I am a neat freak. I love organization and cleanliness. There is a HUGE difference in keeping your city home clean verses your homestead. No matter how many mats you place outside, no matter how many times a day you sweep, even if you require shoes to come off before people enter the house, you will not have clean floors! It is a losing battle.
- How do you feel about bugs? I’ll be honest, I hate them. Unless they fall under the category of butterfly/moth, ladybug, or rolly polly, I don’t want them near me or my home. We don’t use bug spray here or have our yard or house treated for bugs. So, I get to see them quite often! I always considered roaches my arch enemies, but after living on a farm, I realized the real spawns of the devil are flies. And may I wish you luck on ridding your farm of those! After we tried every idea out there on the internet, we found the best solution was a magnet net over your door and a Bug-a-Salt gun.
- How do you like having neighbors? I am an introvert and thought living in the country would not bother me in the least. But let me warn you, if you are used to being in a city and a neighborhood, it’s a big change! You no longer have that person to call if you get locked out of your house, or to watch your house while you are away, or to hear you scream in the night (hey, you never know). I miss chatting with neighbors and the kids miss playing with friends nearby. It can be very lonely in the country and those that are around you are generally not overly friendly. They may wave to you but aren’t interested in making friends with the weird city folk who moved in down the road.
- Do you mind a long drive to everything? We are lucky to have a gas station and the dollar store nearby (it is sort of like the tiny, sad, yucky version of Target). Everything else is at least 30 minutes or more away. We spend a lot of time driving, which also means more gas money. The original plan was to schedule shopping trips, errands, etc. all on one day but the reality is we are in the car daily! If you have kids, they have activities and school (unless you homeschool) to get to most days of the week. There is something to be said for the conveniences of city life! That also means, no pizza delivery on those nights you just don’t feel like cooking!
- You think your kids will love farm life? Excuse me while I laugh! No really, yours might! Ours did when we first moved. Our oldest loved chickens and called herself “chicken girl.” Our son literally followed Daddy around to help with all farm chores. He believed he was a cowboy and rode on pigs, practiced roping and chased chickens. But this all wore off after a couple years. Kids grow and change and have their own interests and likes. Their likes may end up being the same as yours, or they may not! All my daughter wants to do now is move back to the city!
- Are you an animal lover? There are people who like animals and then there are animal lovers. You really do need to like animals if you plan to own them, even if they are not pets, you spend a lot of time working with them! So if you hate animals, please consider growing vegetables. I fall in to more of the animal lover category. In fact, I used to not eat meat at all because of this. And I was pretty clear from the start with my husband I would not be one of those wives out there helping process chickens. Just isn’t going to happen! But I did not realize how much it would bother me to raise farm animals and then be expected to eat them! They will have a face and name now as they sit on your dinner plate. And even though our goal is to raise them in a humane, natural way (no cages, no cruelty), I can’t help but feel sad when they become food. Make sure you are one of those people who this won’t bother. Maybe I am a softy. I certainly never lived in a time period where it was completely natural to go out back and get your dinner.
- Are you hoping to get rich? If your answer is yes, please ditch this homestead idea now! Farming is hard! And expensive, especially if you are trying to be organic and non-GMO. Most people, even those who love the idea of eating organic, do not understand just how much it costs to feed animals organic/non-GMO feed and do not want to pay that price, or simply can’t afford it. Then factor in all the money you spend on building and re-building fences, coops, and barns! There is always something that breaks, always unexpected expenses, and failures. Plants don’t grow sometimes, chicks don’t survive, pigs destroy your fences and gardens, cows get sick. Farm life is not an easy profit!
- Do you like to travel/relax? Well, if you answer yes, say goodbye to that idea! Unless you have trusted people to take care of your farm while away or the money to pay someone to do so, having a farm binds you to home. It’s not like having a cat or some fish in a bowl! It is a daily responsibility that can’t easily be left behind for a week or two. And if you do get away for a while, you will probably get a call that something has gone wrong on the farm (true, the pigs escaped, the cow jumped the fence, the cat almost died, a snake got in the chick coop). If you plan to homestead and still work your other “real” job, you won’t have much free time to relax in the evening or weekends. My husband as a fireman, works 24 on and 48 off, minus the 2 hour commute there and back. His “free time” is now “farm time”.
- Do you like to look nice? If you enjoy looking pretty and fashionable, you may wan to rethink this whole farm thing. I know if you look on the internet you can find some gorgeous people on farms! There probably are some, but honestly, if you actually farm or grow things, most days you don’t look too good! Or smell good. Most likely you are covered in mud, poop and sweat. It’s part of the job!
I know it sounds like everything I said was a negative. There are, of course, positive aspects of farming and homesteading. But I wanted to give my honest, sometimes ugly opinion of what it is really like! If it were all sunshine and roses, I would have to rename my blog 🙂